Welcome to this week’s edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly.” For the next few weeks, we are going to focus on how teams performed at various positions. Up this week: wide receivers.
The wide receiver position was a perceived weakness heading into the 2018 season. Boise State did not have an established receiver and a true number one target. This ended up being a good thing for Boise State, as it forced Brett Rypien to spread the ball around. He knew he could rely on veteran receivers AJ Richardson and Sean Modster who both finished top ten in the conference in receiving yards. Boise State played the majority of the season without their expected top receiver, Octavius Evans. Along with Modster and Richardson, the Broncos were able to stretch the field with junior college transfer John Hightower and speedy sophomore CT Thomas.
The Bulldogs make this category for one reason and one reason only: KeeSean Johnson. In my opinion, Johnson was the most reliable receiver in the Mountain West. He finished the season 95 catches for 1340 yards. Johnson has been criticized for his lack of speed, but he proved that he could be a downfield threat this season, and he has an excellent chance to play on Sundays.
I watched Colorado State play Boise State in person, and I have never been more impressed with a receiver than I was with Preston Williams. Williams has the size, strength, and speed to be special at the next level. His 96 catches and 1345 receiving yards were the top in the Mountain West. The Rams also developed a viable second option in Olabisi Johnson who finished ninth in the conference in receiving yards. The Rams are going to have their hands full next season, as they have to replace both Williams and Johnson.
Early in the season, John Ursua looked like he was going to run away with the yardage title in the conference, but like the Warriors, his numbers went down as the season progressed and teams became more familiar with their new offense. Ursua still finished second in the conference with 1343 yards on 89 catches. The Warriors barely missed out on having two 1,000 yard receivers, as Cedric Boyd finished the year with 970 on 79 catches. The shifty Boyd should be the number one target for Hawaii next season.
Much like Boise State, Utah State relied on having a stable of wide receivers rather than one or two targets. Utah State’s offense was lethal this year, and that was because of their variety of capable receivers. The Aggies did not finish the season with a top 10 receiver, but they had three in the top 20. Utah State will have plenty of question to answer at this position, as they have to replace their top four receivers.
The Wolf Pack fell victim to preseason expectations. McLane Mannix was anticipated by many to be the top receiver in the conference, and Nevada was expected to have one of the top passing attacks in the nation. Mannix and Kaleb Fossum were a formidable duo, but failed expectations land the Wolf Pack in the bad category.
I kind of feel guilty for putting them here. Triple option teams aren’t going to have top receivers. If the Falcons finished with a winning record, I probably would have bumped them up, but only one receiver in the top 40 (Marcus Bennett) puts them in the ugly category.
San Diego State
The Aztec’s passing attack was really poor this year. The loss of Juwan Washington extended to the passing game, as the Aztecs had only one receiver in the top 20. Senior wide receiver Fred Trevillion led SDSU with 594 yards receiving on only 22 receptions. The Aztecs will have their hands full next season, as they desperately need to develop an adequate passing attack if they want to regain their spot on top of the West.
The Lobos did not have one receiver finish in the top 20 receiving yards this season. For a team that promised to be more fun this year, New Mexico struggled to develop a consistent passing attack. Will 2019 be the last straw for Bob Davie?
San Jose State
Tre Walker and Tre Hartley put up respectable numbers for the Spartans, but inconsistencies in the passing game doomed SJSU. The Spartans showed signs of improvement in 2018, but they will need to be more consistent through the air to have a chance to be more competitive in 2019.
The Cowboys were really, really bad at throwing the ball in 2018. They learned early on that players like Josh Allen do not grow on trees. Their receivers suffered from the inconsistent play at quarterback, and their top receiver (James Price) finished only 29th in the conference in receiving yards.
I had high expectations for the Rebels entering the 2018 season; I thought they had an excellent chance to be a bowl team and compete with the top teams in the West. Their passing attack struggled. Even when Armani Rogers was healthy, the Rebels struggled to move the ball through the air.
Stay tuned. Next week’s edition of “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” will feature the offensive lines of the Mountain West.